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Review Malayalam

Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahasyam review: An interesting film that is old and new at the same time

Release Date: 21 Feb 2021 / 01hr 25min

Cinestaan Rating

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Vidyasree Bindu

This 87-minute single-take film starring Jitin Puthenchery and Rima Kallingal blurs the line between the popular and experimental.

Director Don Palathara has created quite a buzz as two of his films were screened during the 25th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK). Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahasyam, alternately titled Joyful Mystery, and 1956, Central Travancore are the two films that were screened at IFFK. Palathara’s fifth directorial venture, Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahasyam has been shot completely in a car. This 87-minute single-take film blends popular and experimental filmmaking.

Revolving around a cohabiting couple Jitin (Jitin Puthenchery) and Maria (Rima Kallingal), this relationship drama captures the conflicts that any man and woman who are committed to each other may face. Peer pressure, societal pressure, the ego clash between the sexes and problems that arise when two individual spaces collide are among the issues the film subtly touches upon. The comic interlude in the form of a telephonic interview with a film director by Maria, who is a journalist, serves a purpose and also takes a sarcastic look at artistic pretensions. 

The story begins with a doubt that Maria might be pregnant and the movie ends with the resolution of that doubt. What happens in between is a long dialogue that reveals a lot about not just the relationship but also about the characteristics of Jitin, who has given up a conventional job to choose acting as a career, and Maria. 

Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahasyam and 1956, Central Travancore are so different that one may not even recognize they are created by the same director. Taking up the role of both director and screenwriter in the former, Don has done a neat job, delivering quality art with experimentation that suits popular tastes, which is quite an accomplishment. The cast, which includes Neeraja Rajendran, has done a commendable job too. The director of photography Saji Babu and sound designer Arun Varma contribute to the establishment of the natural mood that the film creates. The sights and sounds experienced inside a car are beautifully captured. The characters make their exits and entries, but the viewer never leaves the car. Basil Joseph’s sensible minimal music adds to the charm.

If we were to go by Greek standards of drama, the film absolutely abides by the three unities of time, space and action. This in no way means that this movie lacks novelty; that’s where the directorial genius lies — it is new and old at the same time; and in this case, the old can definitely be read alongside the proverbial gold. Ideological conflicts between the sexes have resounded in art through classical works like Milton’s Paradise Lost all the way to Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus and this theme has been resurrected here but in an absolutely new form. Except for the male gaze that lifts its head in certain places in the characterization of Maria, Don Palathara’s Santhoshathinte Onnam Rahasyam is a distinctive film that is worth a watch. 

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